Spend the better part of 27 years following an academic calendar and you’ll suffer a few years of being taken unaware by the holidays.  That’s my excuse, anyway.  It has been over two years since I graduated from law school, and I’m still a bit lost when it comes to taking note of the advent of Advent.  Throw in the fact that I live in a land of two seasons (very nice and nice) and I’m perpetually surprised by the emails and phone calls from my family asking what I want for birthday/Chanukah/Christmas.  Even though I loudly lamented the lack of time to shop, the end of fall semester was an easy way to mark the coming holidays.  If you are one of those lucky folks with an internal calendar, I suspect you already have your shopping done and can totally disregard the rest of this post.


For those of you who suffer like me, here are a few gift ideas to round out your holiday shopping.  Scrambling for night 8? Nothing says “I did NOT forget!” like presenting someone with an envelope containing a screen shot of the things you ordered.   Looking more along the lines of kitchen equipment and gadgetry? See my Kitchen Equipment page for ideas.  Full disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associates program, and receive a small percentage of the purchase price for Amazon purchases made through this site.  Wondering what the picture of creme-filled vols-au-vent has to do with gifts? Nothing. I just didn’t want it to go to waste. Now, on to the gifts!

Ratio - for everyone with an iPhone and a kitchen

As I have previously mentioned, Michael Ruhlman’s book Ratio is an essential addition to any home cook’s library. By breaking recipes into 32 fundamental ratios, Ruhlman arms you with the tools to go beyond recipes and launch into your own universe of tinkering and experimenting with your cooking.  As if the book were not enough, he has recently released an iPhone app by the same name that includes the 32 critical ratios, each complemented by a calculator that adjusts the ratio according to your inputs. It has a save feature, and allows you to add notes to your recipes for later recall.  Out of all the recent attempts to marry classic concepts with new technology, this might be the very best union yet.  At $4.99, it’s also a fantastic buy.  I’ve included a link below for the book; consider giving them as a pair.

Zingerman’s - for everyone with a mouth

This isn’t so much a specific gift recommendation as it is an introduction to my very favorite gift source. For the uninitiated, Zingerman’s is a magical deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan that boasts a robust mail order business.  If you find yourself in Ann Arbor, do not leave until you have stopped by the deli on Kingston.  If you have more time and feel like serious restaurant indulgence, the Zingerman’s Roadhouse takes comfort food to another level.  Let me put it this way: the Roadhouse introduced me to the donut sundae concept, and I have never looked back.

Gift-wise, is the end-all, be-all resource for the foodies on your list, or anyone who falls into that difficult has-everything-they-need category.  They carry everything from cheeses to baked goods to cured meats to rare and wonderful vinegars.  The customer service folks are kind and knowledgeable - if you find yourself unable to make a decision, give them a call and they’ll be glad to help.  Here are a few of my favorites, but this is just the tip of the tasty Zingerman’s iceberg.

Gingerbread Coffeecake
Cookie Sampler
Peppered Bacon Farm Bread
Chocolate Sourdough Bread
10-year Aged Balsamic

Agrodolce White Balsamic Vinegar
French Roast Coffee
Scones and Tea for Two
Arkansas Peppered Bacon

Ice Milk Aprons - for the woman who loves simple, classic things

In a world of disposable everything, it is refreshing to find people who design products with future generations in mind.  The lovely folks at Ice Milk Aprons are enchantingly enamored with the concept of heirlooms and have fashioned their beautiful aprons as such.  Available in full or half lengths (mine is pictured below), these gorgeous aprons are meant to be loved in your kitchen, then passed along for new lives in generations to come.  Each apron comes in an heirloom kit, complete with a tag to hold its owners’ embroidered initials and recipe cards for your most treasured creations (which come in handy even if you, ahem, happen to store your recipes in a decidedly unromantic, electronic form, like someone I know).  One of these days, I’ll post a picture of myself actually wearing my beautiful apron.  Such an occurrence will require a combination of foresight and daylight that has yet to manifest in the Salty Spoon kitchen.  In the meantime, enjoy the way it looks on a vintage Madame Bust:

Photo courtesy of Ice Milk Aprons

Photo courtesy of Ice Milk Aprons

OXO Mini Measuring Cup - for the usefulness quota inherent in every stocking

Some of the most profound workhorses in my kitchen happen to be the smallest.  This 4 tablespoon liquid measuring cup by OXO is one of those little workers - I use it almost every time I cook, especially when I halve or quarter a recipe and need an eighth of a cup of liquid.  Yes, you can always remind yourself that 4 tablespoons equals a quarter cup, but it’s nice to have the same measurement spelled out in several, easy-to-read units.  This isn’t one of those gifts that will knock the recipient’s socks off right away; soon, though, they’ll find themselves stunned and barefoot.



If I were to write out a list of every good cookbook with which I’m acquainted, the post would be unmanageable. Instead, here are a few favorites and a few recent finds that I think are particularly delightful.

Sunday Suppers at Lucques - for anyone seeking a bit of simple elegance

The Craft of Baking - for your favorite baker

The Grand Central Baking Book - for your other favorite baker


craft-baking grand-central

Betty Crocker: Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today - for the novice who doesn’t know where to begin

The Flavor Bible - for anyone looking to learn more about flavor profiles

Ratio - for the anyone looking to reach beyond mere recipes




This Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of the publication of  The Flavor Bible, a book that should hold a prominent place in any curious cook’s library.  I’ve previously mentioned it here and here.

Recipes are lovely, and I can’t possible buy or read enough traditional cookbooks in this lifetime.  But there is another side to cooking that I think is just as important for cooks, especially home cooks, to explore.  It’s the improvisational side.  The process that starts with a blank slate of a clean kitchen and comes to life with one or two ingredients - something that looked particularly good at the store that week, a memory of a favorite dish, a scene from a movie, a song, a mood.


To make something edible out of this process, it’s important to have a basic grasp of cooking fundamentals - how to saute, how to poach, how to steam, how to broil, etc.  But it’s also critically important to have a way to get your hungry head around the flavors before you begin, lest you waste perfectly good chocolate chip cookies by sullying them with mint (hypothetically, of course).   Authors Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg help guide this process by providing (though what can only have been a Herculean effort) an index of ingredients and the flavors that best compliment them.  Need a hand figuring out what to do with the basket of figs that called out to you at the farmers’ market?  Turn to page 162 and see the 70+ flavors that will best compliment them (personal favorite: goat cheese).

My own improvisational process has benefited greatly from The Flavor Bible, and I’m happy to help Page and Dornenburg celebrate the anniversary of this wonderful text.


Oh lovelies. It feels like it’s been a while, probably because it has.  I was out of town for several days this past week, working like a madwoman on a case.  Though the work was kind of exciting and allowed me to keep the most delightful company all week, I was very glad to come home – to my own bed, my house, my sweet husband, my cats, and my kitchen.

I wrote up this recipe before I left but didn’t have time to post while I was on the road.  This is a perfect dinner for a night when you come home late, weary from the day but with a ravenous belly.  It’s quick, satisfying, and falls squarely in that tiny space in my mind where I turn when I say “it’s either this or chips and salsa.”  Bear with me, friends, and more regular posts will resume soon.  In the meantime, go bake some bread!

(Keep reading Skillet Potatoes with Chickpeas and Salsa Verde…)

As you may have noticed in the Artisan Bread recipe, I occasionally specify using Kosher salt.  I will be the first to admit that I regularly ignore some of the specifics when it comes to particular ingredients listed in a recipe.  Unless there’s a really compelling reason, I generally don’t pay attention when a recipe wants me to use, say, a specific brand (this is somewhat likely to be the result of sponsorship, rather than an indicator of particular suitability).  It’s not that I don’t like to be told what to do (apologies if you are in a room with anyone who has ever met me and their shrieks of laughter are making it hard to concentrate on reading), but I usually try to make reasonable substitutions to avoid buying near-duplicates of things I already have in the pantry.

However, there are times when the specified ingredient is so specified for a reason.  When you are asked to use Kosher salt, do.  As you can see below, left, table salt is made up of very fine grains.  Kosher salt, on the right, is made up of much larger flakes.  As a result, a teaspoon of table salt is a lot more salt than a teaspoon of Kosher salt.  If you are out of Kosher salt and a recipe is calling for it, you can use table salt so long as you reduce the quantity by about a third.


Sodium chloride is sodium chloride.  Many, though not all, of the differences people perceive between various sorts of salt (sea, table, Kosher, etc.) are more about texture than taste.  And some salt textures are more suited to performing different tasks – the weighty nubbins of fleur de sel are a better garnish when  you want the salt to hold its shape, for example.  The good news is that salt is generally pretty inexpensive, so you can try several different kinds and go nuts.

For the curious, the salt in the salt cellar pictured in the masthead is sea salt.  The salt cellar itself is part of the Match pewter collection.  Its tiny spoon is pretty much the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, hence the site name.


There is an amazing restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan, called eve.  It’s in Kerrytown, and if you ever find yourself in A2, you should go.   The food is exceptional, as is the ethos behind it.  The focus is on the ingredients, good ones.  Eve Aranoff, the chef-owner, allows her dishes to be both simple and intricately nuanced. She does not shy from ornate flavor profiles, but also serves the best steak you’ll ever have, seasoned only with a little salt and pepper.

One night last week, I came home hungry for salmon.  Curious what Eve had to say about it, I turned to her lovely cookbook and browsed until I found a variation on the following.  With individual salmon filets in the freezer and cooked rice in the fridge (a weekend ritual to provide the 3 tablespoons of cooked rice I need for our weekly multigrain sandwich bread), this was a simple but elegant menu to throw together in less than an hour.  As the pictures show, I served it with a very basic tomato and avocado salad, but anything fresh and green will accompany this well.  The original salmon recipe called for macadamia nuts, but I have a pile of slightly over-toasted almonds I’m trying to work through.  Either nut has a strong enough flavor to hold its own against the chili spices.


I have to tell you about a love affair I have with a spatula.  It would be criminal of me to share my recipes and cooking insights with you without sharing the good news about the Norpro Silicone Spatula.  Sinful, in fact – a sin of omission.

spatulaMy mom gave me a set of these when I was moving into my first apartment and setting up my first kitchen.  The spatula and the spoonula are an invaluable pair, and every time you see me refer to a silicone spatula, I’m talking about one of them.  Perfectly shaped and sized, they are durable, flexible, gentle on non-stick surfaces, and tough enough to handle tough deglazing.  In short, they are perfect.  And you should go order one.

Even in this modern world of non-stick everything (hell, I have non-stick pants, which is a story for another time), it is often helpful to have some sort of oil in a sprayable form to keep everything slipping and sliding in all the right ways. Yeah, I’m essentially talking about food lube, but let’s keep our eyes on the ball.

I am a former Pam devotee. It’s readily available at any grocery store, it’s inexpensive, and it requires exactly zero futzing in order to make it work. Pam is fine for many things, and if that’s what you happen to have on hand, it will totally suffice for much of your lubing needs when it comes to my recipes.


The problem with Pam and its ilk is a function of the delivery method. In order to make that nifty aerosol action work properly, the cooking oil we want is accompanied by propellants we don’t. Please understand, this is not a fussy I Don’t Eat That stance; my objection to propellants is purely from an equipment maintenance position. The propellants in cooking sprays aren’t separable from the spray output. While this does nothing to the taste and texture of your food, they get all the hell over whatever cookware you are trying to lubricate. Do you have a cookie sheet that has become increasingly coated with golden brown crud? Do your silicone baking pieces have inexplicable sticky, gunky bits all over the edges? That’s baked propellant, amigo, and there’s nothing you can do about it. That shit just loves to land on your bakeware and singe itself into molten, messy poop, and any amount of scrubbing that would remove it will also remove half of the host. Propellant crud is, for practical purposes, forever.

So what to do? I use a Misto*. Actually, I use two. It charms me to no end that John and I both came to this marriage with a Misto in hand. We use one for olive oil and one for vegetable oil. I believe they come with labels upon purchase, but those are long gone, so I tell them apart by smell; John tells them apart by lucky guessing, as his sense of smell is, um, retarded.

One benefit of Pam and the like is the absolutely even, whisper light spray of oil that it reliably delivers. Conversely, while you can learn to control the output of the Misto to be as light or heavy as you like, the uninitiated can also end up with a sloppy squirt of oil where you intended a light mist. I can live with the tradeoff, but I am also fastidious about my silicone bakeware and love olive oil, so the occasional unintended heavy squirt doesn’t bother me.

And I must now go quietly die in a corner, as the temptation to run amok with all the squirty imagery in this post is just about killing me.

*I swear up and down, six ways to Tuesday that this product used to be called Mr. Misto. However, upon a foiled attempt to find anything productive or useful when Googling “Mr. Misto”, I discovered that the official product’s name is, in fact, Misto. But the website also includes the prominent tagline “DISCOVER THE MAGIC!” so I think anything is possible here.